The secret ingredient to this incredibly rich and moist chocolate cake is sour cream! This chocolate sour cream cake is not only delicious, but it’s easy to make too.

The secret ingredient to this incredibly rich and moist chocolate cake is sour cream!

This chocolate sour cream cake has been my favorite chocolate cake recipe for years. It bakes up light and moist with smooth, rich chocolate flavor and is so incredibly moist, light and tender.

Pair those incredible cake layers with a light and fluffy chocolate filling and tangy chocolate sour cream icing and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

It’s a chocolate lover’s dream come true, for sure. But it’s also a fairly basic and uncomplicated recipe so it’s perfect for both big celebrations and simpler occasions. Try this easy sour cream cake today! 

Table of Contents

The secret ingredient to this incredibly rich and moist chocolate cake is sour cream!

Why sour cream in a chocolate cake?

Thanks to its high fat content and acidity, sour cream adds moisture, body, and rise. It gives this cake a richer flavor, but also keeps it from drying out.

Simply put, sour cream is why this chocolate cake is so amazing!

So let’s get baking, shall we?

chocolate sour cream cake ingredients

Ingredients you’ll need

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make the chocolate cake layers (full recipe at the bottom of this post):

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Sour cream
  • Vegetable oil
  • Eggs
  • Brewed coffee

And here’s what you’ll need for the chocolate sour cream frosting and filling:

  • Quality semi-sweet chocolate (can use chocolate chips or chopped chocolate bars)
  • Sour cream
  • Corn syrup
  • Instant espresso powder (optional)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Heavy cream
Cake batter ready for baking

How to make sour cream chocolate cake layers

This almost one-bowl cake is as simple as it gets. No stand mixer required!

  1. Sift dry ingredients. Use a fine mesh strainer to sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk wet ingredients. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vegetable oil, large eggs, and coffee.
  3. Add wet to dry. Pour wet ingredients into the bowl with dry ingredients and whisk until just combined, Scrape down sides. Do not overmix, a few lumps are okay.
  4. Divide into prepped cake pans. Grease cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Divide batter mixture evenly between pans (do not fill pans more than 2/3 full).
  5. Bake and cool. Bake cakes in oven at 350°F for about 25-35 minutes (depending on pan size) until a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs.
chocolate sour cream cakes out of the oven

How to make chocolate frosting and assemble the cake

  1. Make frosting. Melt chocolate and espresso in a double boiler over medium heat, and cool slightly. Whisk in sour cream, corn syrup, and vanilla. Frosting will be thin, but will thicken as it cools. Stir occasionally for about 15-20 minutes until it’s a spreadable consistency.
  2. Make filling. Whip heavy cream till thick, then fold in 1 cup of the chocolate sour cream frosting.
  3. Assemble cake. Place one cake layer on plate or stand and cover with half of whipped chocolate filling. Repeat with remaining cake layers. Frost with the rest of the chocolate sour cream icing.

And, enjoy!

Making chocolate sour cream frosting

Tips for making the best chocolate cake

  • If you’re new to baking layer cakes or need a little help, be sure to check out my complete guide for how to build a layer cake. It’s got everything you need to know!
  • For the absolute best results, have the sour cream and eggs at room temperature before mixing the cake. This will help the ingredients combine better, which affects rise and texture.
  • You can use either 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans. (These are the pans I have and love.) 8-inch pans will yield a taller cake, 9-inch will yield one that’s wider. I like to use three 8-inch pans, but you can also use more or less pans for a 2, 4, etc. layered cake. Note: never fill cake pans more than 2/3 full, or they may overflow in the oven.
  • Do your cakes tend to stick to the inside of the pan? See how I prepare my cake pans so they come out clean every single time.
  • If you need a little help frosting your cake like a (semi) pro, see my full tutorial.
Frosting the chocolate sour cream cake

FAQs for this recipe

Can you substitute something else for the sour cream?

I have not tested this recipe using an alternative to sour cream. However, you probably can substitute plain greek yogurt just fine. Make sure whatever you’re using is full-fat or made with whole milk (not light).

Do I really need to use coffee in this recipe?

Coffee is used to enhance the chocolate flavor. And it really does make a difference in how chocolaty this cake is! This cake does not have a coffee flavor at all. If you aren’t a coffee drinker, keep instant coffee granules in your pantry, or pick up a cup from your local coffee shop. You can also substitute with water.

Can I bake this in a bundt cake pan?

Yes, you can bake this sour cream chocolate cake in a bundt cake pan. Make sure pan is greased well with nonstick baking spray and flour and do not fill pan more than 2/3 full.

Do you have another chocolate frosting recipe that will work with this cake?

This sour cream chocolate frosting is basically a chocolate ganache, except that it has a pleasing tang from the sour cream. If you’d like an alternative, my easy fudge buttercream is also delicious.

Can this cake be made ahead?

Yes! The unassembled cake layers store very well. Wrap cake layers in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer (double wrapped) for several months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before assembling.

For best results, I prefer to make the frosting and assemble the cake when I’m ready to serve.

What’s the best way to store cake?

I like to store assembled cakes in the fridge to keep them firm, fresh, and safe from little hands. They will be freshest within 2-3 days of assembly but can be stored for up to a week. Pull the cake out of the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

More chocolate cake recipes

All of these chocolate cakes use this chocolate sour cream recipe as a base. I told you it was my favorite!

The secret ingredient to this incredibly rich and moist chocolate cake is sour cream!

This recipe was originally published July 2012.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake recipe

The secret ingredient to this incredibly rich and moist chocolate cake is sour cream!
4.50 from 18 reviews

Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

Servings: 10 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Assembly Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Incredibly rich and moist chocolate cake. The secret ingredient in both the cake and the icing is sour cream!


For the cake:

  • 1 cup (110 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 ½ cup (330 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon (5 grams) salt
  • 2 ½ teaspoon (11 grams) baking soda
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups (282 grams) sour cream
  • 1 cup (267 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ cup (295 ml) coffee

For the icing:

  • 15 ounces (425 grams) semi-sweet chocolate , chopped
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon instant espresso , optional
  • 2 cups (450 grams) sour cream , at room temperature
  • ¼-½ cup (59-118 ml) light corn syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup icing (above)


To make cake layers:

  • To make the cake, preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.
  • In another bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, and vegetable oil. Add coffee and whisk until smooth.
  • Add wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and whisk until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Do not overmix.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make filling and frosting:

  • Melt the chocolate and instant espresso (if using) in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes.
  • In another bowl, combine the sour cream, vanilla extract, and ¼ cup corn syrup. Add the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Taste for flavor and add additional corn syrup a tablespoon at a time to reach the desired sweetness. (¼ cup was just the right amount for me.) The icing will have a thin consistency, but will continue to thicken as it cools to room temperature.
  • To make the filling, beat whipping cream to medium peaks. Fold together with 1 cup of the chocolate sour cream frosting until combined.

To assemble the cake:

  • Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate and cover the top with half of the filling. Place another layer on top, followed by the rest of the filling.
  • Frost cake with chocolate sour cream frosting as desired.. Store the cake in the fridge until ready to serve, along with any leftovers.


Calories: 824kcal, Carbohydrates: 101g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 45g, Saturated Fat: 26g, Cholesterol: 123mg, Sodium: 665mg, Potassium: 566mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 65g, Vitamin A: 908IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 148mg, Iron: 6mg
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Annalise Sandberg
Have you tried this recipe?I’d love to hear about it! Leave a rating and review below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram @completelydelicious with #completelydelicious.